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Active-shooter exercise trains Valley emergency responders

  • Amalio Jusino, president of Emergency Response Consulting, describes the active shooter response drill he conducted Saturday at Hampshire Mall. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • During an active shooter response drill Saturday at Hampshire Mall, a policemen defends a group of EMTs as they run to the entrance. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • During an active shooter response drill Saturday at Hampshire Mall, a policemen defends a group of EMTs as they run to the entrance. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • During an active shooter response drill Saturday at Hampshire Mall, "victims" exit the mall. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • During an active shooter response drill Saturday at Hampshire Mall, "victims" are cared for on the sidewalk outside the mall as they await transportation. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • During an active shooter response drill Saturday at Hampshire Mall, a "victim" is helped to an ambulance. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • During an active shooter response drill Saturday at Hampshire Mall, "victims" are cared for on the sidewalk outside the mall as they await transportation. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • During an active shooter response drill Saturday at Hampshire Mall, "victims" are cared for on the sidewalk outside the mall as they await transportation. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • During an active shooter response drill Saturday at Hampshire Mall, a "victim" is helped to an ambulance. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • During an active shooter response drill Saturday at Hampshire Mall, a "victim" is carried to an ambulance. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • During an active shooter response drill Saturday at Hampshire Mall, EMTs move a "victim" to an ambulance. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • During an active shooter response drill Saturday at Hampshire Mall, a group of policemen run to the entrance. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • During an active shooter response drill Saturday at Hampshire Mall, a "victim" is cared for on the sidewalk outside the mall. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • J.D. Herbert, right, who is the owner of The Event Coach, applies a "wound" to the head of Mike Kotarba in preparation for an active shooter response drill Saturday at Hampshire Mall. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Cori Zuzgo, left, and Joan Zuzgo, both of Hadley, sport "wounds" as they prepare for an active shooter response drill Saturday at Hampshire Mall. Marlo Warner looks on. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amalio Jusino, standing second from left, who is the president of Emergency Response Consulting, prepares a group of emergency personnel from Hadley and other area towns for an active shooter response drill Saturday at Hampshire Mall. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kasey Earle, from left, Tia Fyden, Natalie Kicza, Tenzing Kyinzom and Sloane Spanknebel, with their hands covered in stage blood, prepare for an active shooter response drill Saturday at Hampshire Mall. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • During an active shooter response drill Saturday at Hampshire Mall, a pair of policemen lead a group of EMTs to the entrance. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • During an active shooter response drill Saturday at Hampshire Mall, a pair of policemen lead a group of EMTs to the entrance. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • During an active shooter response drill Saturday at Hampshire Mall, "victims" exit the mall. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



Staff Writer
Sunday, December 03, 2017

HADLEY — Blood-covered victims sat on stretchers outside Hampshire Mall Saturday morning, but all the injuries were simulated — as was the violence that led to them.

They were part of an active shooter response training exercise, coordinated by Emergency Response Consulting, LLC of North Adams.

“It was surreal,” said Lynn Grey, general manager of the Hampshire Mall. “It was really unsettling.”

The training exercise involved about 10 different agencies, including local police and fire departments and other emergency responders, who all played out a response to the Hampshire Mall for a fictional active shooter and multiple simulated injuries.

Members of the Hadley Police and Fire Departments participated in the event, along with other civilian actors and mall employees.

“As police, we already do active shooter training, but what we don’t do is put multiple disciplines and jurisdictions together,” said Hadley Police Chief Michael Mason. “There’s always going to be confusion and the only way to get better is to practice.”

The training and set-up lasted from 6-10 a.m., before most mall stores were open.

The exercise was one of several training sessions that have taken place in the last three months, to prepare local police and emergency responders for the event of an active shooter and numerous patients. This training was funded by a $50,000 grant from the Commonwealth Security Trust Fund, awarded through the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

Mason said that the Hampshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee applied for the grant in collaboration with the Town of Hadley. He believes that part of the reason Hadley was selected to receive the grant is because they wrote it to include every town in Hampshire County.

Amalio Jusino, president of Emergency Response Consulting, LLC, said that Saturday’s training was focused on getting emergency medical responders and fire departments into the treatment area as fast as possible. He said that the focus on a fast medical response is part of a national awareness campaign called “Stop the Bleed,” which launched in 2015 and encourages bystanders to be trained and equipped to help in a bleeding emergency.

“If you have an arterial bleed, you have four to seven minutes to stop the bleeding,” Jusino said, adding that “Stop the Bleed” focuses on preventing hemorrhaging by using tourniquets, pressure dressing, and clot gauze.

According to the National Trauma Institute, “After a traumatic injury, hemorrhage is responsible for over 35 percent of pre-hospital deaths and over 40 percent of deaths within the first 24 hours.” Because of this, an important part of responding to an active shooter incident with multiple injuries is getting emergency responders to the injured quickly and safely.

On Saturday morning, a simulated dispatch center was set up outside of the Hampshire Mall.

“Active shooter, Hampshire Mall, multiple victims, last known location food court,” Jusino said into his radio to launch the training.

After Jusino made the call to dispatch, there was a delay to imitate travel time and then the first two teams of police officers entered the building and were tasked with finding the fake shooter. Those teams searched for and located the “shooter,” while several rescue task forces entered the building in waves. The rescue task forces, made up of three emergency responders and two to three police officers each, entered the building to address the “wounded.” The active part of the training lasted 35 minutes, from 8:05 a.m. to about 8:40 a.m.

J.D. Hebert, owner of Event Coach in Lanesboro, works with Jusino for Western Massachusetts trainings by applying moulage makeup to volunteers who are acting as the injured. Hebert, who has been an EMS responder for more than 25 years, said that all of the wounds he creates for these trainings are gunshot wounds to various parts of the body, including some “fatalities.”

“It creates realism for the people running through,” Hebert said.

One of the unlucky people chosen to act out a fatality was Mike Kotarba, who is training to be an Emergency Medical Technician in North Adams and has participated in a similar training as a responder in the past.

“It really gets the adrenaline flowing,” Kotarba said. “You’ve got to prioritize who needs help more than others.”

In addition to the realistic gun shot wounds, the simulation also featured a soundtrack of gunshots over the top of the Christmas music playing and screaming victims.

“It was really realistic,” said Alecs Kucinski who played a victim.

After the training finished, participants gathered to discuss how it went. Mall General Manager Grey said that the mall agreed to host the training to be a good partner to the town and the organizations that run the town.

“You can never be too prepared for an incident like this,” Grey said. “It can happen to you, it can happen in your community. Exercises like this help to prepare you.”

Hadley Fire Chief Michael Spanknebel, who is also the town’s emergency management director, said that this was the first training of this size that he has seen since he has been at the fire department.

“It was hair-raising,” Spanknebel said.

Spanknebel, who is also the Treasurer and Secretary for the Hampshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee, said that the next step will be to write an active action report that can later be molded to each community and scenario.

Jusino said in the post-exercise debriefing that training like this tends to result in more unity for the people involved.